When he left Boston, Lincolnshire after teaching for a year at Kitwood School, my dad received a poem entitled “Ode to a Canuck” as a parting gift from the staff. It mentions the newborn me: “If Robert gets tired of Vancouver, you’ll know he’s an Englishman through and through.”
I do get tired of Vancouver, though I often don’t realize it until I go somewhere else.
I got back from Ontario last week. It was a three-leg trip, with three days in Toronto showing Cypress around the city, then renting a car and driving to Fancy’s parents’ place in Fulton, then leaving Cypress with the grandparents and driving back to Toronto for a three-day blowout of fun.
I like Toronto very much. As a non-car-owning person, the place has its shit together in ways that Vancouver never will. Although Vancouver has done well in maintaining a livable downtown core, Toronto simply crushes this town in terms of urban neighbourhoods. Rents are also pretty comparable to Vancouver, based on what we heard from our small sampling of friends.
As Adam Honsinger pointed out, the major drawback to Toronto is that you have to travel so far to escape from the place. On the West Coast, it’s not a big hassle to get away from people for a spell.
(For fans of Mr. Honsinger, our host for the first leg, he and Rain are doing great. He says they’ll probably move back to B.C. once the obligations keeping them in Ontario ease up.)
I met my Unrestrained! boss Adrian “The Energizer” Bromley during both stints in Toronto for fine dining on the U! expense account and some record shopping. He was nursing a fresh tattoo on his lower arm that I tried not to look at too closely, as the affected skin was threatening to flake off onto his pancakes. That aside, the Energizer is a top man and a fantastic tour guide. By the time I said goodbye, I had a serious case of Phonographic Digititis, AKA Album Finger, the grimy fingertip encrustation contracted from afternoons spent flipping through old LPs.
Adrian also let me pillage his shoeboxes full of promos, so I brought home a stupid amount of new music.
Fancy’s parents’ place was as weird as ever. Her folks are excellent hosts, but they (more precisely, her mom) can wear you down. We took advantage of the car to make a couple side trips to Hamilton and Niagara Falls. Hamilton is a bit like Toronto meets John Waters’ Baltimore, while Niagara Falls is crazily tacky and random, with a long avenue of gentlemen’s clubs and motels culminating in an explosion of arcades, fast food, thrill rides, spook houses and wax museums. And if you can tear yourself away from all that, you can walk down the hill and see the pretty waterfalls.
Back home on the grandparents' farm, Cypress caught frogs, packs of coyotes disemboweled sheep in the night, Fancy’s mom lamented the ulcers that would soon fester on her legs, and Fancy, Cypress and I played lots of Scrabble.
The final few days in Toronto were taxing but fun. The first two nights we stayed with Fancy’s hard-rocking high school friend Joan, drinking and dining almost exclusively at Sneaky Dee’s. I just laid low and supped pints while Fancy and friends got caught up and reminisced about their bizarro alternate universe where kids have fun in high school. Two nights of that and I was well into injury time and ready to lay off the ale for a bit... For our last night in Toronto we left poor Joan to sleep in her own bed again and called up Bonnie Bowman. Bonnie’s a riot and has a million hilarious stories, but she’s pretty nocturnal. We managed to keep up the pace, though, and hit the pit about 4 am. We slept till noon, grabbed some breakfast and got a cab to the airport.
The overbooked flight and the non-service of the Air Canada crew left us wishing we’d stayed in Toronto. Our first day back in Vancouver wasn’t very joyous (except for sleeping in our glorious bed), and I felt zombified and disconnected from everything and everyone. Then the next evening, I got a potent dose of Super Robertson after I bumped into him out on Main. We compared notes on Air Canada (the Super family returned to Vancouver from Toronto the same day we did, sans luggage) and had a laugh and I felt a lot better. Just the man I needed to see to get me grounded in this town again.